Celtic Connections review: The Clyde and the Commonwealth

City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

City Halls, Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

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ALONGSIDE its former status as the second city of the Empire, Glasgow remains the first city of Scotland’s Gàidhealtachd, with one in six of the country’s Gaelic speakers living in or around the dear green place.

Cluaidh ‘S A’ Cho Fhlaitheas/The Clyde and the Commonwealth - City Halls, Glasgow

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Greater Glasgow is also home to 12 regional Highland and Island associations – established to support their rural kin upon moving to the metropolis and help preserve their culture in an urban setting – which, together with Gaelic arts body An Lòchran, co-produced this show in partnership with Celtic Connections.

Featuring around 50 singers from four local Gaelic choirs, together with the eloquent solo voices of Cathy Ann MacPhee, James Graham, Gillebrìde MacMillan, Robert Robertson and Ceitlin LR Smith, the programme focused on songs reflecting their authors’ particular journeys from the Highlands and Hebrides – via Glasgow – to all corners of the Commonwealth.

Abetted by Angela MacEachan’s excellent bilingual narration, this choice of material poignantly highlighted how the larger narrative of Gaelic emigration comprised myriad individual human stories, in which a lifelong yearning for home emerged as a sorrowful common thread.

With the line-up completed by musical director Brian McAlpine on piano, fiddlers Charlie McKerron and Gordon Gunn, guitarist Marc Clement, bassist Ewen Vernal and percussionist David Robertson, the songs’ arrangements ranged from starkly minimal to resplendently ornate, while the presence of dance-band accordion legends Fergie MacDonald, John Carmichael and Charlie Kirkpatrick, plus step-dancer John Sikorski, added a liberal dash of ceilidh-style craic to the show.

Seen on 31.01.14

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